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Archive for the ‘Christ with us’ Category

Discussion Guide: 23rd Sunday Yr. A – Love Fulfills the Law

 

Living the Lectionary: Lectionary 23 A - Matthew 18:15-20

 

Reflection Questions:

• Ezekiel is regarded as one of the 3 great prophets (Behind Isaiah and Jeremiah). Ezekiel is both a priest and a prophet and is speaking during a time of Exile away from Home. Without temple practices, faithfulness to the laws of God kept Jewish identity and preserved unity. Ezekiel provides a powerful image of a ‘watchman’, standing, watching, ‘looking out’ for dangers that may be approaching your family. God’s family. Have you had the courage to ‘say anything and warn others’? What happens without ‘watchmen’? Are you challenged into action knowing that your salvation is at stake? What do you feel needs to be spoken of in your family? Community? Parish?

• To love your neighbour as your own flesh is a striking challenge. Jewish interpretation wriggled around the challenge by regarding one’s ‘neighbour’ as their own Jewish citizens. This allowed Jews not to care for ‘outsiders’. Ponder the essential challenge of loving everyone as your own flesh. In what ways have you wriggled out of the challenge?

• Matthew 18 is dedicated to life inside the Christian community. How is the community of Jesus supposed to respond to hurts and arguments that come from living together? A pattern is developed to avoid hurting and shaming those involved. Private conversation, then semi-private conversation and only as a last resort a public church decision. Reconciliation is not ‘brooding’ in silence. Is there anyone you need to approach ‘face to face’?

• Have you experienced the importance of a wise person to help ensure ‘every fact is established on the testimony of two or three’. Anger and resentment cripple christian hearts and disciples. Who are your ‘two or three’ guides to help your reconciliation journey?

• Treating a person like a Gentile or tax collector can be interpreted two ways. If reconciliation does not result, do we exclude or offer continued hopeful patience? What did Jesus do?

• The goal of Christian community is to witness to the world the love of Christ with each other. The authority to bind and loose is given by Jesus to the community in the context of prayer and agreement together. Is there need for prayer and discernment with a group about decisions you (or your ministry group, parish…) are making?

• Jesus makes a promise where two or more are in agreement in prayer it shall be granted to them. What prayer request would you like to share with friends. Who could you invite into your prayer / voice to God?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

Discussion Guide: 21st Sunday Yr. A – Who do YOU say I am?

and u say you are a christian | was condemned as a criminal and ...

Reflection Questions• The special office of ‘Master of the Palace’ also had another well known title ‘Keeper of the Keys’. This involved wearing the key to the palace door. It hung from just below the shoulder and was obvious to all who saw it. Symbolically and physically, this person had access to the King and had authority to act in the name of the King. Unfortunately Shebna in the first reading had a liking for the King’s chariots (Is 22, 16-18) and was building himself a special tomb – both expressions of status and power. He was removed from his office by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah makes a prophecy that such a person given this role will be a ‘peg in a sure spot’. What do you think this means?

• St Paul comes to the end of his painful sharing and confusion as to why his own people (Israel) could not accept Jesus. After all his wrestling and argument with God he finishes in prayer. He hands over this struggle to the mystery of how God works. What do you feel you need to hand over to God?

•The Gospel of Matthew from Chapter 14 has Jesus giving special instruction to his 12 disciples. Dramatically he leaves Galilee and walks them into a place filled with Temples to Roman Emperors and Baal worship. There is even a temple dedicated to the fertility cult of the ‘dancing goat’! Against the background of this pagan worship he confronts his disciples, and us: Who do YOU say I am? What do YOU think of me? Imagine being in this scene. Jesus asks this question of you.

• Simon’s response brings together two ‘titles’. The Christ (in greek or Messiah in Hebrew) is the long awaited one promised by God to save his people. But added to this Simon recognises the unique filial relationship Jesus has with God. Jesus is not simply a prophet (John Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah…) but uniquely one with God. Would you say you ‘know about’ Jesus or that you ‘know Jesus’? Is your christian faith ‘second hand’ or grounded on a ‘personal encounter’ with Jesus?

• Peter – Cephas (meaning Rock) was not a known Jewish name. It is a striking image. Rock was immediately associated with God. And combined with the role of ‘keeper of the keys’ Peter’s leadership and authority within the group of 12 is made clear. The Church is being provided with a teaching authority for the time when Jesus will not be physically present to interpret the Laws of Moses and Gospel of Jesus. Do you view this gift of authority by Jesus positively or negatively?

• Binding and loosing and powers of the netherworld present a Jewish view of the rule of God. Jesus is understood as wrestling the human world from the grip of satan and reclaiming it for God.
How do you relate to power, order, authority. Is it needed in the Church?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide: 19th Sunday Yr. A – Walk on Water

 

Come and Go in Faith - YCK Chapel - Authentic | Intentional ...

Reflection Questions:

• The mountain of Horeb was another term for the famous Mt Sinai where Moses met face to face with God. Unlike Moses, Elijah is being chased. He challenged the Queen for putting statues of Baal in the temple, killed 400 Baal prophets and is running frightened in the desert. He seeks God. He experiences God in the ‘tiny whispering sound’ of God’s voice in prayer. Have you had an experience of doing something for God and it meets resistance? Where do you go to seek God? What would you say you have heard recently from God?

• In St Paul’s letter to the Romans,  chapters 9-11 reflect a great sadness that the Jewish people – Paul’s own people – have not recognised and believed in Jesus. Have you experienced sorrow and anguish for someone who has not believed in Jesus or has left their christian faith? Consider placing them before God in prayer. Paul used this anguish to become an incredible missionary and very talented in preaching in a relevant way. How could you be more missionary?

•After feeding the 5000 people start to suggest that Jesus is the long awaited messiah. This has dangerous consequences. Herod, who has just killed John, could be identifying Jesus as the next target and threat to his power. He ‘compels’ (in the greek) the disciples to leave. Dissolves the crowd and goes up the mountain to pray. Not only does he wish to mourn the loss of John his close friend and cousin. He is also teaching the disciples about mission (Mt 14) and seeks to be grounded in prayer with God.

• A boat tossed about in the sea has always been an early symbol of the Church. In the middle east the rough sea was considered a symbol of darkness and chaos. Throughout history many storms have caused the Church to cry out to Jesus for help. Walking on water is a display of Jesus’ power over all chaos and darkness along with his use of the Divine Name ‘It is I’. A simplification of the divine name given to Moses on Mt Sinai. While the english uses ‘tossed about’ the greek word is literally ‘tortured’. What forces torture you and the church today? Imaginatively enter the boat scene and hear Jesus personally say the words ‘ Take courage, do not be afraid’ to you. What would this mean for you?

• Peter represents church leadership but also the individual disciple. Urged to take the risk of obedience to Jesus’ word the ‘walk on the water to Jesus’ can be sunk by dwelling on the experience of strong winds and big waves. Problems. Fear. Sinking. What could you pray for God to ‘save’ the Church from today? Save you from today?

• Jesus is invited into the boat. The storm calms. Their crisis and Jesus’ help leads them to bow down humbly. Have you had an experience like this?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

Discussion Guide: 14th Sunday Yr A: Take Christ’s yoke and you’ll find rest

 

Year A, 14th Sunday. Being yoked with Christ. « livingtheword

Reflection Questions: • Zechariah makes a prophesy that the Saviour will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Horse and Chariot were symbols of power and war. A donkey was a symbol of humble work and peace. Horse and Donkey. Power and Humility. Violence and Service. Why does the world favour a horse, God a donkey?

• “Meek” is a word mentioned twice in today’s readings. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘not easily provoked’. Like a person feeling anger and yet staying in full control, able to turn it to justice rather than violence. Meek people lead the way in reconciliation, healing. Who could you identify as ‘Meek’? What practice could you adopt to develop a meek character?

• ‘Flesh’ is St Paul’s expression talking about a life that is lived without God, like an animal following only its senses. A ‘Spirit’ led life is a life open to God and turned outward in love. How do you experience the disciple’s tension of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’? Which life do you feed and nourish?

• Back into Ordinary Time we return to the Year A Gospel of Matthew. In chapters 11-12 Matthew is teaching about Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Matthew has Jesus replace Moses as the great teacher. Jesus is the Wisdom of God. Jesus is greater than the Torah (Law given by Moses) and all the Prophets. ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and to whom the Son wishes to reveal him’ is a knowledge claim by Jesus. What does this statement mean for you?

• Jesus remarks how great learned religious figures (Pharisees and Scribes) cannot accept him, yet ‘little ones’ (the poor, those without learning, workers of the land) accept him. It is not necessarily learning that has proven an obstacle but pride and position. Within those who are ‘comfortable’ and ‘satisfied’ grows an inability to be ‘open’. Are you satisfied? Have you made Jesus comfortable? What challenge of Jesus do you find hardest to be ‘open’ to?

• The Torah (OT Law) handed down by Moses required knowing and being obedient to 613 laws. This was a ‘heavy burden’. People felt oppressed by the rules and those enforcing them (Saducees, Scribes, Pharisees). Jewish people referred to this as the ‘yoke of the law’. Jesus invites a radical change. ‘Come to me’ all who are feeling heavily burdened. I will give you rest. Put on my yoke. Learn from me. The Torah is being replaced by the person of Jesus. A wooden ‘yoke’ put around the bullocks neck was tailor made to avoid painful imbalance. In your disciples journey, how are  you experiencing the ‘yoke’ of Jesus? Are you trying to do and carry more than is required?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

 

Discussion Guide: 12th Sunday Yr A: Know Your True Worth

 

Pin on jw.org

Reflection Questions:

 Jeremiah expresses total confidence that the Lord will protect him even though he is in a volatile situation where even one-time friends are out to trip him up. Have you ever felt trapped and surrounded by difficulties out of your control? How did you relate with God through that time?

 How hard is it for you to ‘trust your cause’ to God like Jeremiah? What do you need to be able to move from knowledge about faith to faith in a warm, honest, deep relationship in which you experience of love, power, mercy and justice of God at ‘gut’ level in your life? Try praying the prayer of Jeremiah and keep a record of how God works in your situation.

 In Romans 5 Paul explains why the revelation of Jesus means God can be utterly trusted. Because he put his love on the line by sending Jesus to rescue us when we were trapped in sin and separated from God. Sin entered the world and because of sin we struggle with trials, difficulties, addictions and disordered desires and relationships with people and creation in a myriad of ways. But just as one person caused the problem, Jesus – true God and true Man – overcame sin not simply for himself but for many. That is the essence of the Good News. While we were trapped in sin, Jesus came to set us free. It is a gift to be accepted and opened. What aspect of your life do you struggle most with? Ask Jesus to give you the grace of what you need to be set free in that area today.

 Jesus tells us to “Fear no one”. That takes enormous freedom born out of trust in the absoluteness of God’s power and care for us. Jesus asks us to recognize our true worth – that we are so precious to God that every hair on our head has been counted and even a sparrow is known to God. What does the imagery tell you about how attentive God is to you? Did you know how much God values you? Pray for the gift of knowing the worth God sees in you.

 The Gospel tells us that anyone who acknowledges Jesus before others will be acknowledged by Jesus before the Father. What opportunities to share God’s love can you take this week? How do you feel knowing that Jesus speaks up for you and your needs?

 The word ‘fear’ appears, 92 times in the New Testament. God knows our human tendency to be afraid and wants to encourage us to trust God. Pope St John XXIII said, “Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” How does knowing your true worth help you do that?

 What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

 

File:Christ the True Vine icon (Athens, 16th century).jpg ...

Reflection Questions:

• The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) began as a response to increased devotion to the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the 12th Century. This led to a desire to ‘see’ Jesus in the consecrated elements. In 1220 in Paris the practice of elevating the host began.

• God’s journey with his people in the desert involved difficulties but also God’s providence and care. You were bhungry and I fed you with manna – ‘a food unknown to you’. (See Ex 16). Providing food is a basic expression of care for your children. It creates a bond. And yet they soon grew tired of this ‘manna’. It became taken for granted. How could you reawaken a deeper sense of appreciation for God feeding us with the Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus at mass? Is it ‘normal’ or ‘special’? How?

• There were many temples in the city of Corinth. It was ‘normal’ to take food and offer it to various ‘god’s and pledge allegiance to them. St Paul writes this is not to happen with christians. At the sacred meal (Eucharist) we participate in and receive the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. It is not right to then join your body with worship to other ‘altars’ and ‘demons’ (1Cor 10,21). Is my communion with Jesus real or superficial? Does my life-style show I have many ‘gods’ and ‘altars’ that I worship at? What change and purification may be necessary in my life?

• Moses was greatly revered for ‘feeding’ people with bread from heaven (1st Reading). Jesus now replaces Moses and this ‘event’ with his body. ‘Heavenly Bread’ is now replaced with ‘flesh’. It is no accident that the words flesh and blood are repeated 10 times in this text. How can this man give us his flesh to eat is a question that leads to layers of questions. Is Jesus a ‘man’ or the Divine Son of God? Is the real question ‘how’ can this happen or ‘who’ is making this promise? Do you believe in these words? This promise? What the Mass brings into the life of the world and the Church and offers personally to you?

• Meditate / reflect on these scriptural lines and allow a conversation to begin with God.

• The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world….
• My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink….
• Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you….
• Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them…..

• Is your experience of the Eucharist one of looking, sitting, getting or becoming? Does it progress from Sunday into Monday…?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Reflection Guide for Trinity Sunday is here

Discussion Questions

• The Feast of the Holy Trinity was born out of the Arian controversy debating the divinity of Christ. This was resolved with the Nicene Creed and the Councils of Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381). By the early 400’s preaching and liturgical texts sought to strengthen the Church’s faith and teaching on the Trinity and the origin of this feast began.

• “God does not prove himself; he shows himself”. God’s self-revelation (unveiling) is necessary, because all human attempts to know the depths of God are inadequate. It is fitting then, that the first reading shares one of the great moments of God ‘revealing’ himself on Mount Sinai with Moses. Todays text is actually the fourth time Moses has gone up the mountain to speak with God. The title ‘LORD’ is a Greek translation of the Hebrew YAWHEH – I AM WHO I AM – the DIVINE NAME. But God wishes to go further. ‘I am merciful and gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness and fidelity’. The Hebrew word used to describe this character of God is found in the word ‘Hesed’. It means that God has a covenantal-spousal love which is ever faithful; astonishingly in particular when the other covenant partner,(humanity) is unfaithful. How does this change your image of God? Heal an ‘old’ image of God? Comfort you?In what way?

• St Paul’s letter today shares an early liturgical greeting (still used today). A kiss of peace was to be offered to each other, not after the Our Father before communion, but as a greeting at the beginning of worship to show and sign the love we aim to live and celebrate. How do you greet others in your faith community? Covid 19 has made greetings like a kiss problematic. How can we continue to show love and connection within our community in a way which allows people experience the warmth and love of Christ made visible before their eyes? How could the sign of peace become more significant for you?

• The Gospel does not attempt to explain the Three Divine Persons in One God, but to provide us with a glimpse of the inner nature of God who IS LOVE. Sometimes God is portrayed as a surly master needing to be ‘pacified’ or ‘persuaded to forgive’ by Jesus. Todays text completely negates that idea. God sent his Son not to condemn the world but to save it. God’s only motive is; love, self-communication, forgiveness, mercy. How do we humans respond to God’s offer – will we receive it? We are totally free not to believe but that choice is a kind of ‘self-imposed judgment’. How could you witness more authentically to help others ‘receive’ Christ?

• Rublev’s famous Trinity Icon is shown here. It has inspired many to recognize and ponder the inner union and profound dynamic love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do you notice a gap at the table? The invitation is to pull up a chair and enter in? What does that mean for you?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide: Pentecost – The Holy Spirit, our living power source

 

The Day Of Pentecost (Acts 2) – New Grace Baptist Church

Reflection Questions:

• Pentecost was a Jewish harvest feast 50 days after Easter when fruit had ripened and wheat was harvested. Along with bringing produce to the temple, it was also an anniversary of the giving of the law (torah)- 10 commandments to Moses on Mt Sinai. There are fulfilment and replacement hints in the text. The Old Testament is being fulfilled in the New Testament. Israel is all together at Mt Sinai. The earthquake and storm and eruption – fire. Moses speaking personally to God and being gifted with ʻlawsʼ to teach and guide. Disciples gathered together in an ‘upper-room’. Tongues of fire communicating Godʼs spirit and power to teach and guide and unify all people. How would you choose to write what Pentecost ʻmeansʼ?

• Pentecost is also understood as the reversal of the Old Testament Tower of Babel story (see Gen.11). Humankindʼs sin and self importance is seen in building a tower to reach and become equal to God. This eventuated in the scattering of people and the confusion caused by different languages. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost unites people to understand each other and the Christian message. Do you see disunity? How could you bring unity?

• Paul wrote to the Community at Corinth because some people who didn’t have the gift of tongues were considered inferior. It was causing division in the community. One gift was not to be stressed over another. Everyone is gifted. Name and claim at least 3 gifts you have. What gift do you feel you would like to develop more and use for God and the community?

 

• The Spirit and ʻgiftsʼ are connected to to the ʻbodyʼ. Which part of the ʻbodyʼ (Church) do you identify more with: eyes – seeing, head – thinking, heart – feeling, hands – serving, mouth – speaking, ears – praying. How do you show this in your daily life? How could you be more involved in serving God with this?

• Jesus passes through ʻfear-locked doorsʼ to bring peace and forgiveness. What ʻlocked doorsʼ are present in your life? Use your imagination in a time of prayer and allow Jesus to meet you on the other side of these locked doors….. what happened?

• The Spirit sends the Disciples / the Church ʻon missionʼ. The Church is ʻplugged inʼ to a living power-source moulding everyone into the image and consciousness of Christ. Because of the Spirit the Church has the calling and capacity to be the extension of Jesusʼ ministry in the world.

• Forgiveness of sins and the healing of wounded hearts, families, communities is what each disciple is ʻsentʼ to do. Consider what feelings and thoughts arise in a person when they are ʻsentʼ with authority to do something? Are you conscious of being sent out by the Father to ʻrepair the worldʼ?

• ‘Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour thy dew; Wash the stains of guilt away. Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray….. Sequence prayer of Pentecost. Which prayer ‘image’ to the Spirit speaks personally to you? Why?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

 

Discussion Guide Ascension of the Lord – Jesus is present ‘until the end of the age

 

The ascension - Peter Rogers ). Oil 1963 Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, Ascension Day, Catholic Doctrine, Late Middle Ages, Blessed Mother, Christian Art, Religious Art, Mystic, Modern Art, Spirituality

Reflection Questions:

• The writer of the Gospel of Luke is also understood to have written the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts, we learn of the unfolding events after Easter. The Feast of the Ascension is not trying to claim historically after 40 days Jesus ‘ascended’ but simply reflect on his ‘Ascension’ and new presence now in Heaven. Jesus states a promise has been made by the ‘Father’ to send the Holy Spirit. Have you ever asked someone to make a ‘promise’? Why? What does this reveal about Jesus and ‘us’?

• The disciples are almost ‘told off’ by the Angels. ‘Why are you looking up at the sky?’ Instead of looking up, look around and get to work. The text also encourages a waiting for the spirit and its power so that each disciple can ‘witness’. Have you ‘waited in prayer’ calling for the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit? Consider how you could enter deeply into this prayer request leading to the celebration of Pentecost next week? Consider a place and time. The Spirit is often given through  other people’s prayer. Who could you ask?

• The letter to the Ephesians describes what the Spirit can bring about in us constantly in the life of the Church. What part of the prayer attracts your attention… wisdom, revelation, knowledge, enlighten, hope, call, glory, great might….? Why do you feel the attraction? What may this reveal about a possible prayer journey with the Holy Spirit leading to Pentecost?

• Putting things ‘beneath his feet’ is an ancient idea of authority and power. Kings and Queens were often raised to a height so that all who would come to visit would approach at the level of their feet. Consider Jesus having ‘all power and authority’. Nothing is beyond the possibility of his doing. What would you often pray for knowing you can call upon this ‘power’?

• Some disciples fell down and worshipped but others doubted. Matthew includes this acknowledgment of the persistent weakness and failure present always in the Church. Does this weakness of disciples give you comfort or cause you to complain? In your journey of worship and doubt what has helped you remain a disciple? How could you help a ‘doubter’?

• Jesus is not an absentee landlord. The Matthew text does not actually state Jesus has ‘left’. There is still the struggle displacing the grip of Satan and completing the ‘reign of God’. This is why he clothes his disciples with his power to continue in his work. How is Jesus present ‘until the end of the age’? How do you continue ‘his presence’?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide: 6th Sunday of Easter – I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.

 

He and She: the Spirit of Truth and the Holy Spirit

Reflection Questions:

• Persecution in Jerusalem saw many Christians go out to other towns and cities. Samaria was the Northern part of Israel, the home of the ‘Samaritans’. Because of history and religious differences – they waited for the Messiah to come to Mt Gerazim instead of Jerusalem – Samaritans and Jews did not associate together. It is a newly appointed Greek speaking Philip (see last weeks readings) who enters into this area. Looking back on your life, has sufferings, trials, persecution helped you expand the horizons of your life? In your workplace or parish do some barriers need to be broken down? Who could be a ‘Philip’ without the baggage of the past to work in this area?

• Philip’s whole life won people over to his message. It was not only his words but ‘the signs’ he was doing. Does your lifestyle help or hinder people to hear and accept the gospel?

• Peter’s letter acknowledges suffering. Keep your conscience clear and show good conduct. How could this apply to your life?

• The Easter-tide readings are still dwelling upon the farewell speech of Jesus to his disciples in the Gospel of John (Jn 14-17). He promises to send to them ‘another advocate’. Advocate comes from a greek legal word meaning someone who will give ‘good advice’ and stand alongside to speak for you. Like a lawyer in a courtroom. In trials and troubles the Holy Spirit will lead into ‘truth’. John will also use the words ‘Paraclete’ (one standing alongside) and comforter as words to explain the role and experience the Holy Spirit will bring. Ponder the words ‘Advocate’ and ‘Paraclete’ and ‘Comforter’. Does this expand your appreciation of the Holy Spirit? • Many consider the Holy Spirit difficult to know and experience. A guide from the scripture texts may be we need to be more courageous in mission – to ‘be taken to court’ – to experience the Holy Spirit at work? Can you identify an experience of the spirit at work in your life? How could this experience be grown and deepened?

• There is a long prayer tradition of repeating and deeply feeling the words of a scripture phrase. Our mind focuses upon the words and our heart feels its truth. John shares some beautiful phrases today. Pray for 5 minutes with a phrase… take one with you for your car journey, lunchtime prayer, personal quiet time….

• ‘I am in the Father and you are in me and I in you’.
• ‘Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father’
• ‘I will love you and reveal myself to you’.

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?